One of the most widely studied parts of the human body in recent years is the gut microbiome. As scientists begin to unlock more and more information about this fascinating system, it has become increasingly clear that it is crucial to support its health and proper functioning. A healthy gut microbiome is essential to a number of the most important biological processes, including digestion, brain health and even heart health.

Here is what you need to know about the gut microbiome, its importance to a healthy lifestyle and how you can support its optimal functioning.

Understanding the Gut Microbiome

7 Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Gut Microbiome 1Weighing in at more than the human brain, the gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria and fungi that reside inside the gastrointestinal tract. This collection of living organisms influences a wide array of biological functions, including the immune system, body weight, mood, heart health and appetite. The majority of the microbes in the microbiome can be found in the large intestine.

The gut microbiome is ever-changing, growing and adapting to different influences. The complex system is individual to every person. A healthy gut microbiome boasts a variety of the good bacteria that keep your digestive system running. However, this function stretches well beyond the confines of the gut, going so far as to affect your mood and emotional wellness through what scientists recognize as the gut-brain axis.

Importance of a Well-Functioning Gut Microbiome

Let's take a closer look at the importance of a well-functioning gut microbiome. The diverse community of microbes in the gut is essential in the function of the immune system, lowering the risk of developing specific diseases and allergies. For example, a healthy gut can potentially protect against diabetes and various inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and colitis. A balanced gut microbiome may also be instrumental in positively impacting your metabolism, hormone production, blood sugar levels and more.

The gut-brain axis describes the communication network between the brain and the gut, connecting the two organs physically and biochemically. Microbiomes that offer the right levels of healthy bacteria can be instrumental in fighting against anxiety, chronic stress and depression.

How to Support a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Now that you know more about the importance of a healthy gut microbiome, you may be wondering what you can start doing today to support its healthy functioning. Here are a few of the best ways to support your gut microbiome.

Boost Fiber Intake

The bacteria in the microbiome feed on fiber in an effort to encourage the flow of waste out of the body. This is why being purposeful about eating an adequate amount of dietary fiber is essential to a healthy gut. You should aim to eat between 25 - 35 grams of fiber per day. Increase your intake gradually so that you do not suffer uncomfortable side effects like constipation.

Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are another important nutritional component in maintaining a healthy microbiome. Good choices include sauerkraut, miso, kefir and kombucha. The live bacteria from these fermented foods nourish the gut and encourage a greater diversity of bacteria.

Focus on a Diverse Diet

While fermented foods and fiber are certainly important in maintaining a healthy microbiome, it is most important to focus on eating a diverse diet. This means eating a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Yogurt with live cultures is especially important in the quest to feed the gut with the right nutrients.

In our modern times, we've become accustomed to eating convenient processed foods instead of "real" food with wholesome, healthy ingredients. Eating food that is in season will improve the nutritional value obtained, going further to support the gut. Making your plate as colorful as possible is another good strategy.

Spend Time Outside

One of the easiest ways to support your gut health is to be intentional about spending time outside. This is because the interaction with the natural world and its diverse microbiome strengthens gut microbiome function. Even something as easy as opening the windows to let in fresh air can go a long way towards improving the composition of the gut.

Supplement Wisely

7 Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Gut Microbiome 2The right supplement routine can be one of the best ways to support a healthy gut microbiome. A supplement routine that includes both prebiotics and probiotics will encourage a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. While probiotics consist of the good live bacteria and yeasts that naturally inhabit the body, prebiotics are the food for these beneficial microorganisms.

Get a Pet

Want a fun way to improve the function of your gut microbiome? Get a pet! Household pets have been shown to boost the body's immune system while lowering the risk of asthma, allergies and obesity. Medical researchers have found that people with pets in their home have healthier stool samples, pointing to a gut that is working properly.

Avoid Over-Sanitizing

It may be tempting to lean on antibacterial soaps and cleaners, however, too much sterilization can actually hurt your gut microbiome. Over-sanitizing your home has the potential of killing off the harmless bacteria while encouraging the growth of the dangerous types. While cleanliness is certainly important, do not go overboard in your efforts with these sanitizing products.

Being proactive about maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can pay off big dividends when it comes to your overall physical and mental wellness.

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